Career Advice IB/MBB/BD ->PE/GE?


Apologies for the somewhat long post but in a unique situation & would like to gain some insight.

Have had a good amount of conversations with people from IB, PE/GE, VC & MBB. My goal is to work within a PE/GE firm that focuses on tech , such as GA, Thoma Bravo, Vista, Insight, etc. within the deal/investment team. However, my background is going to make the journey challenging.

Background: 6 years of sales/BD experience within technology, most recently (past 3&1/2 years) have been a VP for a tech firm that is PE backed, LMM/MM PE firm. Grew out a new office, increasing revenue by roughly 10% for company within the first 3 years & assisted with some post-acquisition integrations. Have some fairly good & relevant experience on the operating & revops side of things. Came from a non-target university, health science degree & a pretty bad GPA compared to most people on this forum. Was also a D1 athlete & captain.

Paths I have discussed with people within the industry:

  1. MBA: go to a top b-school, land a decent summer internship then use this as a transition point to enter into PE/GE investing. Not sure how possible this will be given my lack of investing experience prior to b-school, however, hoping my 6 years within tech as well as having a great operating understanding of portcos in the tech space could help as long as I demonstrate the technical finance skills. However, couple big downsides to this route - $200K plus 2 years of no salary would be tough given mortgage, expenses & what not. Also, given my shitty GPA, non-target school/major not sure if I could even get into a top 10 MBA program. I'm sure I could do decent on the GMAT mid 700s if I put in the effort to prep properly, plus I have been taking a good amount of online course from Wharton & Harvard online that are directly related to finance & investing getting great grades on them. Also, have a fairly good story behind my grades not being good in college (not a major I was interested in, had ACL surgery, played a D1 sport, etc.)
    as well as by the time I would apply I'd be 7 years removed from university. However, still not sure if this would be enough to gain entrance to a top 10 MBA program. Thoughts?

  2. CFA L1: some people have told me that if I get a CFA that would show my commitment & finance knowledge & allow me to get a associate role within a EB/MM IB if I did some great networking within a TMT/tech focused group. Have great leadership & tech knowledge which would set me apart from the usual associate but lack the hands on technical finance aspect. Given the CFA L1 is a lot of time as well, want to make sure this would actually allow me to land a role within a decent IB firm which will then allow me to transfer to PE/GE. Would getting a CFA L1 allow me to gain entrance into a GE firm that does heavy souring? My sales & tech experience would help me excel in the sourcing aspect & the CFA L1 could help improve my technical finance skills rounding everything out. Thoughts on if this route would be possible?

  3. MBB/T2 PE consulting: might be just as hard to gain entrance into this as opposed to other roles given my background, however, might be able to network myself into an experienced hire position within MBB & then transition while within MBB to the PE DD team & then transition PE/GE. Also not sure if this is possible or not.

  4. PE Ops role: Given my experience related directly to PE Ops, I could potentially join a smaller PE/GE firm on their ops team then somehow work my way over to the deal team once I have proven myself. However, have not heard of anyone doing this yet so not sure if this would even be a possibility.

  5. Change roles within my current firm: Prior to Covid-19 we had planed to do 2-3 acquisitions within the next 18 months of so. Could try to talk to my CEO & become someone a souring/BD/corpdev role within my firm working on the acquisitions with my CEO & our PE firm. One, not sure if this would be possible & two, if it was, would this experience allow me to work for a PE/GE firm on their investment team given my current firm in sub 200 employees?

Does anyone have any advice/guidance on which path would best lead to my end goal? Obviously all these paths will be challenges & an uphill battle but more than willing to make the effort in order to have my ideal career. Would just need to know which path would provide the best results as I do not have the time to focus on all 5 routes at once.

Thanks in advance!

Comments (4)

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Jun 13, 2020 - 7:39pm

I get why tech-focused MF/UMM funds might interest you but based on the competitive nature of investing/ops roles at these firms (GA/Vista/Insight/Thoma Bravo), it might be extremely different/nearly impossible to transition into these roles given your background (even with networking and warm intros). It is certainly more realistic for you to target sub-1bn funds (LMMs/few MMs) that are open to folks with your background. However, this will take a lot of hustle, networking, learning/reading, and going out of your comfort zone. I say this because I have a friend who works at a MM PE/GE fund as an associate and he says they have Tech BD folks on the team on the operations side - some of these folks have even made it to senior roles within the PE/GE firm after spending 8-10 years there. Operations teams may value BD experience more than sales although I may be wrong.

Nonetheless, that is not to say you can't make to an investing role - if you do put in the effort to do well on your GMATs to offset the low GPA, have strong recos, stellar extracurriculars, there is some possibility for you to make it to a top-15/20 MBA program. There have been several situations where people from top-20 bschools have managed to secure IB Associate roles and I also know a couple (very few though) folks who have made the transition to PE/GE post their IB Associate role. I have met with a bunch of PE folks (friends, alum, ex co-workers) and none of them had a CFA except maybe 1-2 of them who were non-finance majors and took the level 1 back in college. To be honest, it takes up a lot of time and effort (months and months of prep) that may not provide you with enough benefits to propel your career in PE.

You could certainly talk to your CEO as well as folks from the PE/GE team that has backed your company about your aspirations. I do see value in joining other early/growth-stage tech companies on the BD side if you want to work in VC at some point your life but of course you would've considered this. There is certainly a lot of upside if you can manage to move to a more senior role as stock compensations do pay quite well if you stick around with growth-stage companies and allow options to vest - certainly more upside if the company has a strong track record and is expected to IPO or have a private listing in the forseeable future. Given your background, you could totally transition into such a role with enough effort. Morever, this offers you an opportunity to enter the buy-side at VC fund with tech ops experience if you really can't get your mind off of PE (without undermining your previous six years of sales/bd experience).

Jun 13, 2020 - 10:40pm

thanks for the reply & insight. understand these routes are near impossible & will take tons of work & effort which I am all for doing. based on this, it seems like the following are the best options:

  1. top 15 MBA to IB to MM PE/GE
  2. talk to my CEO & leverage that relationship plus get more senior into my company, potentially c suite & leverage that experience/relationship.

also, how realistic is it to get into a top 10 b-school with my background if I do well on the GMAT, have great recommendations, 6-7 years excellent work experience with promotions to VP level in both firms, captan of D1 college team, plus extracurricular such as volunteering & coaching youth sports etc as well as supplement course works from top tier schools although online despite a bad GPA?

based on all this also, what would you think would be the most beneficial path?

thanks again.

Jun 14, 2020 - 12:04pm

another additional thought which not sure how possible it would be. leverage my experience in BD to work in a sourcing heavy shop such as Insight Partners if I can prove my technical finance skillset? again, not sure if these more sourcing heavy firms would take a chance on someone from my background but did want to see if anyone had some perspective.

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